What is tinea?
Tinea is a common skin condition caused by a fungal infection. The fungus thrives best in warm moist environments, so areas like the feet ('athletes foot'), the groin ('jock itch'), the scalp and body (such as under the breasts) and sometimes the toe or finger nails are ideal places for the fungus to grow.
Symptoms can include a red flaky rash that can crack split and peel, blistering and itching.
Sometimes the rash appears in a circular ring pattern which is called ‘ringworm’ and can be a little misleading because there is no worm involved.
If tinea forms in the nails they may develop a yellow or white discolouration. If tinea forms on the scalp, bald spots may occur.
Types of tinea
Tinea infections can affect many areas of the skin and depending on their location and fungal type, the infection has different names:
- Athlete's foot (tinea pedis): fungal infection of the skin on the feet.
- Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis): fungal infection that develops on the head.
- Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis): fungal infection of the body that develops on the top layer of the skin.
- Jock itch (tinea cruris): a rash in the moist, warm areas of the groin.
- Nail infection (onychomycosis): a fungal infection of the toe or finger nails.
Most tinea infections are mild and can affect anybody. Young people and men tend to be affected more by tinea on the foot ('athletes foot'). In addition, people who play a lot of sport, spend time in communal changing rooms and showers, or wear trainers (sneakers) are more likely to be affected.
The infected area should be kept clean and dry as the fungi prefer to grow in moist, warm conditions.
Tinea is treated with antifungal medicines and generally clears up within four weeks.You can purchase these creams from any pharmacy and some supermarkets. Follow the application instructions on the package carefully and speak to your pharmacist if you have questions.
Although rare, tinea can spread to other areas of the body, so good personal hygiene is important to prevent the infection spreading. Go to this page for more information about tinea treatments and prevention.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your tinea, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
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Last reviewed: August 2017